Tue, Jul 01, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blue squabble set to test alliance

CLASH Despite an official nomination, two KMT members will contest a Hualien County by-election as independents amid rumors of discontentment

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former Cabinet Secretary-General Hsieh Shen-shan, center, and his supporters vow to win the Hualien County commissioner by-election after the completion of his registration procedure yesterday. Hsieh was nominated by the KMT-PFP alliance last Tuesday.

PHOTO: YU TAI-LANG, TAIPEI TIMES

In view of two pan-blue members stepping up their bids for the upcoming Hualien County commissioner by-election, political analyst yesterday said that the episode revealed a tough situation that seems to ceaselessly plague the KMT-PFP alliance -- integration.

"The furor over the candidacy issue within the pan-blue camp lies not in different judgments between the central party and that of local politicians but in the issue of integration," said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political observer and editor in chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.

The Hualien County commissioner by-election will be held next month to fill the post left vacant by KMT Commissioner Chang Fu-hsiung (張福興), who died of lung cancer in May.

Both the KMT and the PFP were finally able to reach consensus last week to pick from a lengthy list the KMT's former Cabinet secretary-general Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) as the alliance's representative in the by-election.

At the time, officials from both parties expressed confidence that they would successfully dissuade fellow party members from running their own campaigns in the race.

While PFP Legislator Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) decided to drop out of the race following a meeting with PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), integration of the pan-blue camp nonetheless ultimately failed as two KMT members vowed to run without their party's endorsement.

Chang's widow Liu Chao-eh (劉詔娥) announced yesterday that she would run in the by-election as an independent candidate.

Wu Kuo-tung (吳國棟), a former KMT Hualien County commissioner and a decade-long KMT member who possesses popular local support, also expressed his determination to run his own campaign.

The KMT decided not to hand Wu the nomination because of his alleged involvement in financial irregularities.

Although, following a second appeal, a court found Wu innocent, the KMT blocked his candidacy due to the party's "black gold exclusion clause" (排黑條款), which imposes tough restrictions on candidates with backgrounds in organized crime who intend to run for public office.

Protesting his innocence, Wu voiced his discontentment with the KMT's nomination process. Liu yesterday also branded the party's nomination process "non-transparent and unfair."

Their complaints highlight dissatisfaction among the party's lower ranks with decisions made by party headquarters, Chin said.

"Just like when the pan-blue camp decided its presidential ticket would feature [KMT Chairman] Lien [Chan] (連戰) and Soong, the decision on who to field in the Hualien by-election came from the upper echelons and not from the bottom up," Chin said.

"Given its non-transparent nomination process, it is natural for people in the lower ranks to feel discontent," Chin said. "As a result, it prompts people like Wu and Liu to jump out and start their own campaigns."

Both Wu and Liu's determination to run in the race will undoubtedly divide the county's pan-blue votes for Hsieh, Chin said.

Noting that Hualien County has always been considered a pan-blue stronghold, Chin said that "while it is no big deal for the DPP if it loses the by-election, it would greatly the damage the KMT-PFP alliance if [the pan-blues] lose the race."

The DPP has not nominated a representative in the by-election. Despite denials from both the DPP and Liu, it is largely believed that Liu, though running as independent, will have the DPP's backing.

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